A casino is an establishment for gambling. It is generally a facility or a combination of facilities for games of chance, such as slot machines, table games like blackjack and roulette, and card games such as poker and baccarat. It may also include entertainment and retail shopping. In some countries casinos are regulated by law.

Gambling is thought to predate recorded history, with primitive protodice (cut knuckle bones) and carved six-sided dice appearing in some of the oldest archaeological sites. But the casino as a place where people could find a variety of ways to gamble under one roof didn’t develop until the 16th century, when a gambling craze spread across Europe. At that time, rich Italian aristocrats would meet for private parties at places called ridotti to play cards and other games of chance. Though technically illegal, these parties were rarely bothered by the authorities — the aristocrats knew that their chances of being caught were slim.

The economic mainstay of a modern casino is the income from high-volume, fast-playing games like slot machines and video poker that generate large amounts of money at very low cost per bet. But even these low-cost games have built in mathematical advantages that allow the house to win over the long run. Those advantages may be small — less than two percent in the case of many slot machines — but they can add up to big profits. Those profits enable casinos to offer high rollers extravagant inducements in the form of free spectacular entertainment, limousines and elegant living quarters.